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Champaign County Board Hearings Planned in February on Cutting Size of County Board


The Champaign County Board will hold hearings in February to consider a possible reduction in the number of its members.

The County Board has 27 members. But Policy Committee Chairman Tom Betz says it would run more efficiently with maybe only half or two-thirds that number. The Urbana Democrat says the two political parties have trouble finding a full slate of candidates who are fully engaged in county government. The result, he says, is certain amount of not-too-active back-benchers.

"They're very intelligent, very capable people", says Betz. "But they are not necessarily as engaged and as active as other members. I think we should make sure everyone on the county board is fully and completely engaged."

Betz says his mind has changed over the past year on county board size. He once held views more like those of Alan Kurtz. The Champaign Democrat says cutting the number of members could result in a loss of diversity --- even if, for instance, African-Americans and Hispanics keep the same percentage of seats.

"Percentage-wise, we may still be representing the same amount of people", says Kurtz. "But we're not representing the same opinions. We're losing three black, or three 'of-color' opinions, that my differ from the other two."

Only the county board can set the size of the county board, although they could ask voters to weigh in through an advisory referendum. Betz says the February hearings will give county board members the information they need to decide if they want to reduce their membership with the 2012 election.

Those hearings will be hosted by the County Board's Policy Committee --- but by the time they're held in February, that duty may have moved over to a new Committee of the Whole. The Policy Committee endorsed an overhaul of its committee structure Wednesday night that would have all county board members voting on all committee items at two monthly Committee-of-the-Whole sessions. Those sessions would replace meetings of the current six standing committees --- but the chairs of those committees would still set the agendas. The full Champaign County Board will vote on the proposal at its October 20th meeting.